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Posts from January 2018.

This week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending January 19 is below. This week’s Update includes a heavy dose of short-term rental stories as well as details on Italian regulators’ recent efforts against European travel sites.

California City Can Ban Short-Term Rentals [SHORT-TERM RENTALS]
Calif. Appeals Court Says City Can Ban Short-Term Rentals," Law360 - Real Estate, January 18, 2018) (subscription required)
A California appeals court denied last week an appeal by homeowners in Hermosa Beach challenging a city ban on short-term rentals (less than 30 days). According to the homeowners, the city ban violated, among other things, the California Coastal Act, which regulates “coastal programs.” The court disagreed, stating that the Act (and the Commission charged with enforcing the Act) is primarily concerned with issuing coastal development permits, not city-enacted zoning rules. At the lower court level, the homeowners had asserted (and lost) claims that the ordinance violated their First Amendment rights (commercial speech) and real property rights.

This week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending Friday, January 12, is below. This week’s Update features stories predominantly on OTAs.

Politics Larger Than Size [OTA]
("China Shuts Down Marriott’s Website and Mobile App Over Tibet Gaffe," Skift Travel News, January 11, 2018)
For those of you who may believe that Marriott’s size and status following the recent Starwood merger allow it to do just about anything, China wishes to set the record straight. Last week Marriott announced that it was taking down temporarily (approximately 1 week) its Chinese website and mobile application in response to Chinese officials’ request. The request apparently constitutes punishment for Marriott’s mistaken identification of contested Chinese territories Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet being listed as separate countries in a Marriott loyalty program member survey. According to the Marriott announcement, those responsible for the gaffe at Marriott will also be subject to “necessary disciplinary action,” including possible termination. For hoteliers seeking to expand their China presence, this serves as an important reminder of the geopolitical risks of doing business there.

The first installment of our weekly OTA & Travel Distribution Update for 2018 is below. A mix of stories in this week’s Update.

Rental keysAirbnb Avoids Liability for Lease Violations [SHORT-TERM RENTALS]
("Airbnb Ducks Apartment Managers’ Beef Over Rentals," Courthouse News, January 3, 2018)
A California federal district court dismissed last week a class action brought against Airbnb by a collection of Southern California apartment management companies. According to the companies, Airbnb encouraged tenants in their buildings to violate the short-term rental prohibitions in the tenants’ lease agreements (which identified by name, Airbnb) and created an unsafe environment for their full-time residential tenants. Relying on Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) (the sometimes controversial federal statute that protects internet service providers and other online platforms from liability for unlawful content or activities posted or conducted via their services), the court dismissed the claims stating that Airbnb was not responsible for the actual listing information posted by tenants on the Airbnb website – even if it was in breach of the tenants’ underlying lease obligations. According to the court, the services provided by Airbnb and the content required by Airbnb to be posted to provide those services did not make Airbnb an information content provider and therefore exclude Airbnb from the protections of the CDA.

Happy New Year from Seattle . . .  I hope all of you enjoyed the holidays. Our final, year-end OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending December 29, 2017 is below.

GoogleScrutiny Grows Over OTA’s and Hotelier’s (and now Google’s) Keyword Practices [OTA]
("Google is making it harder for travelers to find the best prices, the Wall Street Journal charges," Business Insider, December 28, 2017)
Two weeks ago we included a story from Skift detailing the misguided (in our humble opinion) allegations by Washington D.C.-based investigative news service, The Capital Forum, regarding the allegedly collusive keyword practices of large hoteliers and OTAs. According to the allegations, contractual provisions found in most large distribution agreements limiting the parties’ ability to purchase keywords containing each other’s valuable trademarks harm consumers by limiting competing distribution channels’ and hoteliers’ ability to market themselves. Now comes a story from the Wall Street Journal adding Google to the collusive mix.

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About the Editor

Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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